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Africa's hottest investment destination: ANIP CEO, Maria Luisa Abrantes.

Angola is probably the hottest investment destination in Africa today. In addition to the vast investments made in the oil and now, gas sectors, private foreign investment is flooding into several sectors, including infrastructure and real estate. All investment into the country is handled by the Angolan National Private Investment Agency. Anver Versi met the dynamic head of the organisation.

Ms Maria Luisa Abrantes, the CEO of the Angolan National Private Investment Agency, ANIP, is one of the busiest people in Angola. Her daily appointments diary is bursting with entries--with good reason: Angola is now perhaps the hottest investment destination in Africa.

Despite the huge pressure on her time, she cleared a slot for me as she was keen to set the record straight on Angola's investment potential and the procedures involved.

Bang on the scheduled appointment time, to the second, we were ushered into her tastefully decorated office. A very short while later, looking fresh and attractive, she bounded in, shook our hands enthusiastically and got down to business immediately--but made a couple of jokes to ease the tension and make us feel comfortable.

I began to see why she has made such an impression on investors coming to the country and calling on her office as a first stop. Everything, from the organisation's reception office to her person, exudes efficiency, control and dispatch.

ANIP provides the framework for Angola's investment policy both foreign and national--and walks investors through the raft of regulations that govern the nation's investment code. It deals with all investments into the country, whether from giant global oil and construction companies to much more humble outfits providing much needed goods or services to Angola. The country's investment policy, she said, was rooted in the MPLA's socially oriented policies and always placed the welfare of the citizens at the top of the agenda.

It is also a holistic policy based on employing revenues from oil to regenerate and accelerate growth in all other sectors.

"Take agriculture, for instance," she said. "Angola has about 12% of Africa's water resources and vast areas of arable lands. Our agricultural output before the war was one of the most impressive on the continent. We would like to regain that position--and of course also produce for our own populations and our neighbours."

She points out that Angola is also very well positioned geographically. "We are a gateway from the Atlantic Ocean to both Central and Southern Africa. For the investor, Angola opens up a market that far exceeds our current population of 24m; the market that can be accessed is around 100m when you take into account DR Congo, Zambia and all the other countries that lie in close proximity to Angola."

She added that Kinshasa, the capital of DR Congo, was only 45 minutes away by air and that large numbers of Congolese citizens came over daily to trade or work.

Transport infrastructure linking Angola to its neighbours has either been refurbished or is in the process of being so. Railway links from the Port of Lobito to the mineral-rich areas of DR Congo and Zambia have already been established and should be commissioned in the near future. Lobito port itself is undergoing a major expansion with a specially designated mineral reception port now in place.

This new outlet will be a major boon to eastern DR Congo and Zambia as it is expected to substantially reduce the transport costs for bulk minerals as well as imports going the other way.

"But this is only part of the picture for Angola. There are huge investment opportunities in virtually every sector you can think of--agro-processing, manufacturing, energy, education, health, transport, tourism, entertainment, real estate development, retail ... you name it!

"Angola is making up for the lost decades and we have a huge list of things to do. While the state is central to some sectors such as energy, education and health and is pouring billions of dollars into these sectors, private investment is becoming an increasingly important partner in an increasing number of activities," she said.

One of these areas, Ms Maria Luisa Abrantes said, was infrastructure. "It is clear that without a functioning and fit-for-purpose infrastructure, you do not have the bases for economic growth and you cannot attract private investment. That is the reason why, since the war ended in 2002, the government had been pouring vast resources into roads, railways, bridges, ports, airports--first rehabilitating them and then constructing new ones."

Raft of infrastructure projects

She rattled off a list of new infrastructure projects. For example, the new Angola International Airport will rival Johannesburg when it is completed in the near future; a new dry port in Luanda is in the final stages of completion, construction of new ports at Caxito in the province of Bengo and Porto Aboim in Kwanza Sul province is expected to begin soon; the magnificent new Parliament in Luanda will be inaugurated soon, while legislators moved into the new Benguela parliament last year.

I wanted to know how private investment could play a part in the social housing programme. "Because of budgetary restraints and the need to avoid a drop in the quality of services because of them, we are turning increasingly to private enterprise," she said.

"This is where it is felt that a private organisation can be more efficient, or has a greater capacity to provide the necessary resources for essential investments."

She explained that private companies have been gradually replacing public entities in non-essential activities.

In the area of social housing, private contractors--both foreign and local like Kora Angola and Imogestin--are contracted by the state to carry out projects to certain well-defined standards.

"One of the essential elements defining the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) concept is the sharing of risk," she said.

"That definition implies that the sharing of risks between public and private entities must be correlated to the capacity of each party to manage those risks and that they be identified with absolute clarity in the contract," she explained, adding that the transferring of risk to the private sector must be real and significant.

She said PPP initiatives could come either from the government or private entities and her office was always open to discuss issues and work through the often-complicated rules and regulations governing many such initiatives.

Foreign investment into Angola has increased very significantly from around $1.7bn in 2011 to $7.4bn in 2014. The bulk of the foreign investment has come from the US, France, Belgium, Italy, Brazil, Portugal, Norway and China. "China is now number one," she added, although Portugal was a leading investor in the non-oil and minerals sectors.

At this point, her secretary came in and reminded her that our allocated time was up and that her next appointment was due. As we walked out, we saw a small delegation led by the ambassador of a major world power go into her office. Her secretary shrugged: just another packed day in the life of Maria Luisa Abrantes.
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Title Annotation:Angolan National Private Investment Agency
Comment:Africa's hottest investment destination: ANIP CEO, Maria Luisa Abrantes.(Angolan National Private Investment Agency)
Author:Versi, Anver
Publication:African Business
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Mar 1, 2015
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